Home News Sexual misconduct discussion dominates senate meeting

Sexual misconduct discussion dominates senate meeting

by Matthew Lapierre January 23, 2018
Sexual misconduct discussion dominates senate meeting

Concordia senate also approves four new graduate programs in chemical engineering

Student leaders expressed their displeasure with the university at Concordia’s senate meeting on Jan. 19 over what they see as a lack of transparency and action in dealing with recent allegations of sexual misconduct.

At the meeting, Concordia president Alan Shepard apologized to students on behalf of the university and announced that Concordia is in the process of hiring an independent investigator to look into claims of sexual misconduct in the school’s creative writing program and in other programs. Concordia will also be commissioning a third party to perform a “climate review” to look into the culture of the school’s English department—which has been widely criticized by students since former Concordia student Mike Spry published a blog post earlier this month. Spry’s essay denounced what he called “a culture of impropriety and abuse” in Concordia’s English department and the wider Canadian literature community.

Student leaders, including ASFA president Jonathan Roy, CSU councillors Ali Sherra and Mikaela Clark-Gardner, and student advocacy centre coordinator Stephen Brown, questioned Shepard and proposed new ways for the university to address the issue of sexual misconduct and students’ lack of trust in the university’s ability to deal with these allegations. One of the ideas proposed was the introduction of written incident reports to be filled out by a professor or an administrator if they are approached by a student with a complaint.

Administrators also announced that a university-wide policy on romantic relations between students and faculty would be released in the coming days. Shepard stressed that the focus of the university’s staff and faculty is to help students achieve their academic goals. “We are not here to date them,” he added firmly. Shepard also noted that an outright ban on student-faculty relationships would probably not withstand a legal challenge. The school is instead considering a policy where these relationships must be reported to the dean’s office and reviewed to ensure there is no conflict of interest.

According to Shepard, the university is in the process of finalizing a contract with an independent investigator to look into misconduct allegations, but the person’s name will not be made public. The third-party that will conduct the “climate review” has not been hired yet, but Shepard said that person will be expected to interview students and faculty members over the next four months and file a formal report with the university in May.

Four new graduate programs

The Senate approved a request on Friday from the department of chemical and materials engineering to create four new graduate programs. Beginning in September 2018, the department will offer graduate certificate and graduate diploma programs, as well as a master’s degree in applied science and a PhD program in chemical engineering.

The chair of the department, Alex De Visscher, said the programs are intended to be modular, meaning that graduate students can work their way through the courses at their own pace, accumulating first a diploma, then a certificate, then a master’s, and finally a PhD, if they want. He added that the department’s intention is to eventually offer some of these programs online.

According to De Visscher, the department—established in November 2016—is in the process of planning a full undergraduate program in chemical engineering.

Graphic Alexa Hawksworth

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